Winners of the scholarship were chosen at random from entries submitted by senior athletes who participated in this year’s Virtual Native Youth Olympic (NYO) Games and submitted applications. Both winning athletes will receive a $1,000 scholarship, donated by The Eyak Corporation and the Worl family.
“I joined NYO for the first time my sophomore year, and I instantly fell in love,” wrote Aleutia Peters in her scholarship application.
Although she is also involved in volleyball, the 17-year-old Unalaska senior said that participating in NYO Games is a different experience than traditional Western sports.
“For volleyball, it’s more like you have to work together, but there’s more competition, too,” she said. “For NYO, it’s more like you get to work together. It’s taught me a lot about sportsmanship and being part of a team.”
Naatannii Mayo, an 18-year-old senior graduating from West Valley High in Fairbanks, wrote in his statement that NYO is an experience that cannot be replicated.
“The community here in Fairbanks is supportive — it’s like everyone is your teammate,” he elaborated. “That’s why I said no experience can replicate that. Other sports are really competitive and there’s no room for helping your competitor. At NYO, we’re helping each other get stronger.”
Both athletes indicated that, like 87 percent of the students who participated in this year’s virtual event, NYO Games helped them get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“NYO gave my friends on my team time to reconnect,” said Naatanii, who participates in the NYO kicking events, including the Alaskan High Kick. “I was struggling hard with remote learning before NYO, but my coach helped me get back on my feet. People you meet at NYO can really aid you in life and help you go a long way.”
This fall, Naatanii plans to enroll at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to pursue a bachelor of arts. Meanwhile, Aleutia will attend the same school and focus on a degree in marine biology.
This is the second year in a row that the Worl family and The Eyak Corporation have made the scholarships available. The Eyak Corporation has been a longtime supporter of NYO Games.
“We’re so happy to be able to support [these students] and their pursuit of higher education,” said Kyle Worl, an NYO coach and athlete and the son of Eyak Corporation CEO Rod Worl. “For me, NYO helped ground me while I was in college, so I hope that through this scholarship, we can support students as they pursue their goals and dreams.”